From G-Rated to the Paddy Wagon

Hot Water Beach Travel Blog

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To ring in the New Year, Rod and I finished our last day in 2009 with an excellent game of mini golf.  Crazy stuff I know.  Hang on to those bonnets ladies.  The mini golf in Whitianga was quite lovely really.  The place had 18 inspired golf holes with fun decorations based around a kids story book.  A page from the this story book was showcased at each hole, although I got too into the mini golf showdown to remember to read the book.  In any case, there was a wizard with a cauldron full of smoke/dry ice, a pink VW bug lodged in the fence, several water features, shaded areas to escape from that biting NZ sun, and general all 'round G-rated fun.  Quite possibly the best mini putt in recent memory.

After the dramatically suspense-filled last round where I manged to lose by only one stoke (one stroke!), we got back to New Years Eve preparations.  We returned to the only supermarket on the whole Coromandel Peninsula, also known as the Supermarket of Doom, and stocked up on supplies.  This time we managed to hitch a ride with a very fascinating German man who had moved to New Zealand several years ago.  He told us stories of Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall, what happened to him and his friends as a result of that, and how he ended up falling in love with New Zealand while visiting on holiday.  He decided that since he was returning to holiday in NZ every year, he might as well just move there and so there he was making a living as a wood carving teacher.  He was on his way to deliver one of his products to a customer past our campsite and offered us a lift.  Hitchhiking sure lends it self to hearing such good stories.

Back at the camp site, we prepped a picnic dinner, a change of warm clothes, and soon we were on our way to Hot Water Beach.  This time we got a lift with a young dude on his way to a party.  His girlfriend was already getting antsy that he was running late but I think he got a kick out of the idea of showing up even more late if he picked up some random hitchers and drove them to another beach out of his way.  Good man.

Hot Water Beach, a popular tourist spot, was surprisingly deserted when we got there, but the sun had already descended below the trees casting the entire beach into shadow so it was understandable.  It was many hours until low tide (the optimal time for digging which just happened to be around midnight that NYE) so the two of us got down to enjoying the tranquility, eating our marvelous picnic dinner feast.  We settled in between some large lava rocks under a big tree and watched the sky change colours as the full moon rose.

Eventually, the tide got lower and lower and a few groups of people started gathering.  It was time to find a hot water spring.  We did this by digging our feet into the sand where the tide was slowly retreating and feeling for hot water.  And hot it was!  So hot that we couldn't stand in it.  We could always tell when someone else found a spring by the resounding yelp and leap out of the water.  With only one spade between the two of us and a relentless washing of waves, digging out our all-natural beach hot tub proved to be more difficult than we anticipated.  The water kept washing away our wall, and I couldn't help dig with my hands because the water at the spring was too hot to submerge my hands in.  It took ages to form our pool walls and only with the help of a borrowed spade and the fact that the longer we took, the more the tide retreated back. 

But of course, with the tide getting lower, our source of cold water was getting further out of reach and we needed it to cool our super hot water spa.  We borrowed someone else's bucket and took turns carrying cold water to our hot pool until the temperature was just right to sit in.

Eventually, we managed to sit back in our pool and relax.  Right around midnight, some people set off some fireworks on the beach and everyone broke out their bottles of bubbly and cheered.

What an awesome way to ring in the New Year!  Of course, our sadly constructed pool didn't last long.  Us tourists clearly didn't know how to construct all-natural homemade spa pools using a thermal spring and ocean water.  Clearly, I missed that lesson sometime in my childhood.  Our pool wasn't deep enough to meet the water table so water kept seeping out through the sand and only super hot thermal water was seeping in the other side.  Plus, sand kept sliding into our pool preventing us from making it deeper.  Amateurs.  The whole build-your-own-spa under a full moon on New Years sounded amazing, but it turned out to be so much effort! 

Thankfully, we were able to claim someone else's well built, evenly mixed, perfect temperature hot pool, after it's builders abandoned it, and we finally got to relax.  Hazaah!

Sometime around 3am we started to get cold and figured it was time to head back to our campsite.  We changed into multiple layers of dry clothes and headed back to the parking lot.  We had just sat down at a picnic table in order to rally the strength to walk the 9kms back (the first 4 kms uphill!) when we heard a bus pull into the lot!  A bus?!  Didn't even know there was running there let alone at 3am.  Stranger things have happened in the middle of nowhere.  The bus wasn't heading back to Hwy.25 but the driver offered us a lift up to the fork in the road at the top of the hill.  4km uphill trek averted!

With our flashlights on, we started the last 5kms back.  It was a long straight, unlit, flat road through farmland and we weren't expecting to see a single car pass, let alone an offer for a ride.  I mean, who's crazy enough to pick up two strangers in the dead of night on some deserted road when one is a 6'4" tall man and the other is carrying a shovel?

Well, about a kilometer down the road, we actually saw headlight comes from behind us.  As it got closer we could see it was a white van with several people squeezed in to the front.  It actually stopped.  We couldn't imagine our luck.  There is truly no one crazy enough to pick up a random pair like us, unless of course, you're the police.  They stopped to see if we were alright considering we really were walking in the middle of no where.  They offered us a lift, but there was only room for us to ride in the hold.  Paddy wagon hitch hike!  We were like "alright!  I've never been in the back of one of these before!"  Talk about riding in style!  We got a kick out of it, but I'm sure that was only because we knew we were going to be let out.  I guess it would be quite intimidating to be sitting on those metal benches locked up in the dark behind several layers of bars.  It was like we were riding in a locked cage inside a locked cage behind some locked doors.  Which we were.
Connie says:
Ha ha! The motivation to go to sleep NOT on the side of the road was all we needed to keep moving! We knew what we got ourselves into when we decided to go out there and fully expected to walk back so we had lots of warm clothes with us. I'm still amazed we didn't have to walk more than a km that night.
Posted on: Jan 28, 2010
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Hot Water Beach
photo by: schnuddli